BEIJING Aug 7 China will force real-name
registrations on users of instant messaging tools and require
public accounts wishing to publish or reprint political news to
seek prior approval, state media said on Thursday.
Last year, China launched a campaign to clamp down on online
rumour mongering and 'clean up' the internet. The crackdown has
led to an exodus of users from Twitter-like microblog platforms
such as Weibo Corp's Weibo after authorities detained
hundreds of outspoken users.
The latest restrictions will likely affect hugely popular
mobile messaging apps like Tencent Holdings Ltd's
WeChat, which has almost 400 million users. Other instant
messaging tools include Tencent's QQ, Alibaba Group Holding
Ltd's Laiwang app, NetEase Inc's Yixin and
Xiaomi Inc's Miliao.
Accounts that haven't been approved by the instant messaging
service provider are forbidden to publish or reprint political
news, the official Xinhua news agency said. It added that
service providers must verify and publicly mark accounts that
can publish or reprint political news.
Users must also sign an agreement with the service provider
when they register, promising "to comply with the law, the
socialist system, the national interest, citizens' legal rights,
public order, social moral customs, and authenticity of
information," Xinhua said.
Tencent declined to provide immediate comment by telephone.
Alibaba, Xiaomi and NetEase were not available for immediate
comment by phone.
As apps like WeChat have grown in popularity, they have
increasingly come under the ruling Communist Party's gaze.
"WeChat, and social media, are now truly mass media and
regulated as such," said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based
tech advisory BDA.
"There are challenges of course in regulating (WeChat), but
the Party will never loosen up," said Clark.
On Thursday, South Korea said Chinese authorities had
blocked messaging apps KakaoTalk, operated by South Korean Kakao
Talk, and Line, a Japanese-based subsidiary of South Korea's
Naver Corp, as part of efforts to fight terrorism,
the first official explanation of service disruptions in China
that began a month ago.
Other services like online video streaming sites run by
Youku Tudou Inc, Sohu.com Inc, Baidu Inc
and Tencent have also been targeted by censors in
Tencent shares were down 3.5 percent in Hong Kong trading on
Thursday, versus a 0.8 percent drop in the Hang Seng Index
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Ryan Woo)